The Ligier European Series field put on a show worthy of the Temple of Speed this Saturday morning at Monza. After several lead changes in both categories, the #34 Les Deux Arbres Ligier JS P4 and the #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R won race one of the Monza Heat in Italy.
The opening race of the day kicked off at 10:35 am sharp. The #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 with Alessandro Cicognani on board started from pole, followed by the #34 Les Deux Arbres driven by Patrice Lafargue. From P5 on the grid, the #27 24.7 Motorsport car driven by Andrew Ferguson made a good start and moved up to third, while the #33 Les Deux Arbres car with Jacques Nicolet dropped to fifth in the category behind two Ligier JS2 Rs. Within minutes after the race went green, the #27 and #34 were involved in a fierce battle, which resulted in a drive-through penalty for the #27 car due to unsportsmanlike driving, which saw it drop to tenth place overall.
After ten minutes of the race, almost all of the Ligier JS P4s were at the sharp end of the order, with the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage leading the way. However, Alessandro Cicognani was followed closely by Steve Zacchia in the #32 of Les Deux Arbres. The Frenchman made an unsuccessful attempt to overtake. Further back in the field, the duel for third place was just as intense between the #34 and the #33.
Soon after, the pit stops began. The #33 and #34 Ligier JS P4s entered first, while the #23 and #32 stayed on track before stopping in turn, followed by the #27. The #32 driven by Patrick Zacchia led for the first time in the race, ahead of the #23, now with Jacopo Faccioni behind the wheel. Behind them, it was the #34 with Dimitri Enjalbert and the #33 driven by Jacques Nicolet. The #27 driven by Jeremy Ferguson moved up to sixth place overall.
But then a spin of a Ligier JS2 R brought out the safety car, with 20 minutes left in the race. The #23 still led and managed to put in a solid restart. The #34 caught up to its rivals and moved into second place. An intense battle between Italy’s Jacopo Faccioni and France’s Dimitri Enjalbert began, marked by late braking and side-by-side racing. They swapped the lead several times before the #34 got the upper hand and eventually went on for an eight-second margin of victory. Les Deux Arbres scored its third victory of the season, following the success at Barcelona and the Red Bull Ring. It is also the second victory for Patrice Lafargue and the first victory for series newcomer, Dimitri Enjalbert.
The #23 Ligier JS P4 came second but set the fastest lap of the race thanks to Jacopo Faccioni (1:58.550s). Third place on the podium went to the #27 24.7 Motorsport car, which battled back in the second half of the race.
The action was just as intense in the GT category. At the start, the #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R driven by Natan Bihel and the #24 Orhès Racing car driven by Mathieu Martins managed to get stuck in with the Ligier JS P4s. Further down the grid, the #95 CTF Performance Ligier JS2 R with Nicolas Beraud at the controls was third, followed by Laurent Millara in the #69 M Racing sister car. The bold #53 didn’t hesitate to keep a close eye on its Ligier JS P4 rivals.
But Natan Bihel was soon caught by Mathieu Martins in the #24 Ligier JS2 R. Twenty minutes into the race, the Orhès Racing car took advantage of the destabilisation of the #53 in a corner to move past. In another close battle, the #53 regained the lead a few minutes later, only to be relegated to second place by the #24. The pit stop window then opened.
Now with Olivier Pernaut in the cockpit, the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R was still in the lead, followed by the #95 CTF Performance car driven by Fabien Delaplace, and the #53 M Racing entry. Just minutes after the pit stop window closed, the #25 Orhès Racing car driven by Paolo Collivadino spun and got beached in the gravel, causing the safety car to be called into service.
At the restart, the #53 Ligier JS2 R took the lead from the #24 Orhès Racing. After several laps, the #95 CTF Performance car was overtaken by Laurent Millara in the #69 M Racing car. The #95 also received a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits, which it served during the extra lap at the end of the race.
With a three-second lead over its arch-rival, the #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R scored race win number five of the season. Natan Bihel also recorded the fastest lap of the race in 2:02.049s. Finishing just behind the #24 Orhès Racing car, the #69 M Racing entry gave the team a double podium finish.
Race two from the Monza Heat will start Saturday afternoon at 2:35 pm. Live coverage will be provided on the Ligier European Series’ website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.
For the complete results of race 1, CLICK HERE.